Fantastic line-up for city’s annual celebration of the written word in the home of storytelling
Chester Literature Festival opens at Storyhouse this weekend, and there is a packed two-week programme of book events, performances, discussions and workshops to enjoy.
Authors, activists, poets, performers, illustrators, broadcasters and actors are coming together with Chester audiences to celebrate the world of storytelling.
The festival runs from 6-20 November with events in the theatre, Garret Theatre, The Kitchen, Library and Den.
And Storyhouse will also come alive with the words of the 2021 artist in residence, award-winning performance poet, playwright, musician and activist Benjamin Zephaniah, whose poetry will unfold on walls and floors across the inside of the building.
Chester Literature Festival was launched in 1989 by volunteer organisation Chester Arts 89 and city booksellers who programmed a week of literary activity including a reading by the niece of novelist D H Lawrence.
This is the tenth year that the festival has been programmed by Storyhouse.
Andrew Bentley CEO of Storyhouse said:
We’re delighted to be staging this festival once again in Storyhouse – celebrating the power of storytelling in all its forms.
This year’s festival has a really interesting and diverse programme, lots of well-known faces alongside important discussions on representation in literature and hands-on opportunities to be creative.
Book Launches and Appearances
The festival opens on Saturday, 6 November with lexicographer and Countdown dictionary corner queen Susie Dent presenting The Secret Life of Words. Take a journey into the curious, unexpected, and downright surreal origins of the words we use every day.
Spend the evening with author, actress, podcaster, presenter – and I’m a Celebrity Queen of the Castle Giovanna Fletcher on Monday, 15 November as she launches her latest novel Walking on Sunshine. The ticket price includes a copy of the heart-warming and uplifting book.
Award-winning Radio 4 broadcasters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, who together run the smash-hit podcast Fortunately, arrive at Storyhouse on Wednesday, 17 November to celebrate the publication of their new book Did I Say That Out Loud?
The pair will be joined by a special guest as they take modern life by its elasticated waist and give it a brisk going over with a stiff brush.
Superstar food writer and TV cook Nigella Lawson invites Chester audiences to an Evening With…. on Thursday, 18 November to coincide with the launch of her latest book Cook, Eat, Repeat, a combination of delicious recipes and essays about food.
And on Saturday, 20 November, the Garret Theatre hosts an evening of pure escape with stories, jokes and poems courtesy of BAFTA-winning writer, poet and TV and film producer Henry Normal and The Escape Plan.
Poetry and Performances
Join winners and shortlisted entrants in Unlocked: Writing from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2020 in The Kitchen on Sunday, 7 November, where they will be celebrating the launch of an Anthology of their work with readings from the collection.
New Art Club’s Tom Roden and Pete Shenton have emerged from lockdown with a new show which comes to Storyhouse on Wednesday, 10 November.
Cupid’s Revenge is an irresistible 60-minute physical poem performed on stage alongside a giant Love Heart and which plants love under the microscope in the 21st Century.
Irrepressible improv troupe Austentatious returns to Storyhouse on Thursday, 11 November, as part of a tour marking the show’s 10th anniversary. Every show is unique as the cast conjures up a ‘lost’ Austen classic based on nothing more than a suggested title from the audience.
Performance poet, rock star, presenter and cultural commentator Dr John Cooper Clarke joins the festival on Friday, 12 November with his I Wanna Be Yours Tour.
And on Sunday, 14 November, poet, performer, publisher and broadcaster – and winner of the 2021 Saboteur Award for best spoken word performer – Luke Wright returns to Storyhouse his new show Come! Come On! Meet Me!
There’s Safety in Numbers when Mersey Sound legend Roger McGough appears in the theatre on Tuesday, 16 November. His new collection of verse embraces the strangeness of a year that was almost lost.
Meanwhile on Friday, 19 November, leading British singer-songwriter Polly Paulusma presents Invisible Music, her recrafting of a collection of folk songs which inspired the late novelist Angela Carter – the subject of Paulusma’s recently-completed PhD.
Discussions, Talks and Q&As
Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up is the ultimate fully illustrated guide to navigating life as a Black teenage girl. Join Black Girls Book Club founders Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A Carter in the Garret Bar on Sunday, 7 November in a celebration of the book and Q&A that explores their writing process.
Meanwhile the Garret Theatre is the venue for a celebration for, and panel discussion and Q&A about, the uplifting and empowering anthology Black Joy in which 28 inspirational voices celebrate being Black and British. Editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and up-and-coming talent Timi Sotire are among the panel at the Sunday, 7 November event.
In Healing in the Community and the Future of Activism on Tuesday, 9 November, a four-strong panel of academics and authors will discuss the critical role the community has to play in social justice and healing, looking towards an exciting future.
And in Frontline Chat: Talking Cops and Comedy on Wednesday, 10 November, popular police podcasters Harry Tangye and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Dave Wardell will be joined by comedian Arthur Smith – son of a London bobby – and host, actor Ian Puleston-Davies, for an unmissable evening of conversation.
Meanwhile four fantastic panellists come together on Sunday, 14 November for Beyond the Margins – Writing the Story That Needs to be Told, exploring how to write the story you are meant to write rather than the one that sounds good, or you feel has mass appeal.
The Storyhouse Cinema is the venue for Cinema in the Dark on Sunday, 14 November, where three new audio dramas – Minibeats, Imagination Games and A Copy of Me – are being launched…in the pitch dark. The event will include a live Q&A.
What Young Adult Fiction Means to Us, taking place in the Garret Theatre on Thursday, 18 November, features a Q&A with Sara Barnard, Kell Cowley and KC Finn.
And on Friday, 19 November, join the New York Times Best Seller Abi Daré in conversation with Founding Editor of AFREADA Nancy Adimora and be part of a conversation discovering and discussing Nigerian Literature at home and in the diaspora.
A busy programme of workshops starts on the opening day of the festival, Saturday, 6 November, with a fascinating look at Science Fiction as Activism.
Ama Josephine Budge – writer, artist, curator and ‘pleasure activist’ – will lead the afternoon workshop aimed at adults and which will explore how to read, write and think about how to use sci-fi to bring about real change.
In Illustrating for the Culture on Sunday, 7 November, London-based illustrator, art director and founder of illustration studio Nubiart, Jael Umerah-Makelemi, looks at the issue of representation in books and how to best bring written characters to life.
Ever fancied writing, designing and producing your own zine? Now is your chance to find out how in a one-off DIY Zine Making Workshop on Saturday, 13 November.
Zoe Thompson, founder of sweet-thang zine – an independent arts and literary zine celebrating work by Black women and non-binary creatives – will lead the two-hour event which is a must for anyone who wants to learn how to start and create their own unique publication.
Meanwhile four fantastic panellists come together on Sunday, 14 November for Beyond the Margins – Writing the Story That Needs to be Told.
Sunday, 14 November also sees a Knitting and Oral Histories workshop with Black Girl Knit Club, where Sicgmone Kludje and Vea Koranteng will offer an opportunity to learn about textile design from a West African Culture, hone a new skill through basic knitting and understand the importance of sharing oral histories and personal narrative through cloth.
And on Tuesday, 16 November, creative storytellers aged 14 to 25 are being invited to immerse themselves in the world of comics and visual storytelling.
Comics Youth: Write and Illustrate a Story, being held in the Garret Bar, will be led by writer Emily McChrystal and illustrator Ella Fradgley of Comics Youth, an inspirational and empowering Liverpool-based creative community organisation which is led by young people, for young people.
The Human Library, on Saturday, 6 November is a drop in event in The Kitchen which aims to break down the stereotypes and remove the labels we put on people, using the idea that each person is a ‘book’.
Matt Haig’s best-selling novel The Midnight Library is the inspiration for a panel discussion in the Garret Theatre on Sunday, 7 November. Sociologist Emi Howe, counsellor and major accident survivor Leana Hughes, and integrative counsellor Gregory Starbuck will discuss personal trauma as a catalyst, mental health and resilience.
On Monday, 8 November there is a chance to explore the theme of Childlessness in Literature with a special panel discussion chaired by Dr Dawn Llwellyn.
Silver Rainbows in Conversation on Thursday, 11 November, is inspired by Bernadine Evaristo’s book Mr Loverman and sees Colin Avery, a community development worker at Cheshire-based charity Body Positive, talk to members of Silver Rainbows – its service for older LGBT+ people – about the theme ‘what does it take to be your authentic self?’
Exercise in Pregnancy and New Motherhood on Thursday, 18 November gives people a chance to Join Chester-based author, speaker and health physiologist, Dr Rehana Jawadwala – author of Why Pregnancy and Post Natal Exercise Matter – as she dives deep into the benefits of maternal physical activity.
And two ’10 Minute Talks’ take place on Saturday, 20 November.
The first, Kaleidoscope, features a panel of real people who are living with a disability telling their story – a story which may be funny, sad, shocking or educational. And the second, Unpaid Carers, provides the chance to hear some short, engaging personal stories.
The Kitchen will host Storytime on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays over the festival where local authors will share stories for all ages.
Your Voices, in The Kitchen each Saturday during the festival, showcases talented local writers, poets and storytellers, while on Sunday, 14 November there is a Family Boardgame Day – LitFest Edition.
And from 13-20 November there will be a Booky Dip in the Den, and Blind Date With a Book in the Library.
For more details on any of the events and to book tickets, visit www.storyhouse.com/literature
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Storyhouse is one of the UK’s foremost cultural centres incorporating a library, theatres and a cinema. It is one of the country’s most successful arts buildings, with more than one million customer visits each year.
The pioneering new library within Storyhouse, where members of the community work alongside city librarians, boasts the longest opening hours of any UK public library and is open every day until 11pm. It runs over 2,000 sessions a year for marginalised communities
The company also runs a highly successful theatre company and the country’s most successful regional open-air theatre, in the city’s Grosvenor Park and Moonlight Flicks open air cinema.
Storyhouse currently holds the official title as the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre and was the overall national winner in the 2018 Guardian Public Service Awards
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